I read a lot of nonfiction books (here’s the list), I think this is nonfiction number 14 (overall 15) for me on the year and I’m used to finding ones that are labeled “fast paced” and “easy to read”. The reality is, few of them live up to that expectation. David Kirkpatrick achieved a quick pace and an easy read with The Facebook Effect. He adeptly combined a narrative of Facebook’s history with an overview of some of the issues and opportunities Facebook faces. He has chapters on the political ramifications of “owning” online identity, privacy, Facebook’s cultural aspirations and monetization all woven in to the fabric of the story without making you feel that you’ve left the fireside story telling of Facebook’s history.
The bad news is, the story is horribly biased. Kirkpatrick claims to have interviewed about 50 people in the company and about 50 people outside the company. Those outside the company ranged from investors to former employees with huge holdings in the company and all the biased individuals in between. It truly feels like the story had just enough embarrassing moments sprinkled in to make it feel believable, but certainly not enough to be the whole truth. If there are 1000 pictures that clearly show how Facebook grew up these last 7 years, this book shows you the 50 they’d post on Facebook.
The bottom line: If you like Facebook or startups or good non-fiction, definitely read the book. If you’re looking for the “you can’t handle the truth” version of Facebook’s history, you’ll have to wait until a less authorized telling hits book stores.